In preparation for becoming a mom, leadership coach Stephanie Jhala had already left her sales and marketing role at a large software company. Her plan was to consult with companies that that had a social or environmental mission, and coach them on how business can be used to make a difference in the world. Then baby Aria was born eight months ago, and turned things upside down.
“I had such a hard time for the first six months because I was so sleep deprived and I had to carry her all the time because she wouldn’t let me put her down, I hit a wall,” she says. Figuring that other moms were having similar experiences, Jhala wanted to help. She used her leadership skills to develop mindfulness workshops for moms in Vancouver. We wanted to know more about this, and the purpose that Jhala strives for in her work.
Why did you start doing what you do?
I’ve been working in sales and marketing for quite some time in the corporate world, and deliberately chose to work with companies that had some kind of social mission, or to give back. I started doing a lot of leadership training with Landmark (a company that offers personal development programs), and as my leadership skills grew my vision of the impact that I wanted to make in the world got so much bigger than what they were willing to do. I wanted to do big radical things, but they weren’t into my ideas. I left for that reason, and because I knew I wanted to be a mother, and coming back to the corporate 9–5 world was not family friendly.
So I left to start my own consultancy, thinking that it would probably take a while to get pregnant and I’d have the business going then. I got pregnant first try, and had to put the business on hold to have my baby. Which was fine, I wanted to fully educate myself on being a mom, and dedicated my time to that.
When she came, and wouldn’t let me put her down, she slept and napped on my chest, I found I couldn’t support myself, was crying, and it was such a big change. I said, if I’m feeling this, and I’m a leadership coach, I’m the most empowered person I know, and if I’m having such a hard time as this then other moms probably are as well. You don’t hear the stories because everyone’s just posting happy pictures on social media and you think they’re doing great, they’re having so much fun, nobody posts their rock bottom moments.
So I called a friend who owns a beautiful modern meditation centre here in Vancouver and said I want to do one of these meditation classes for moms and babies, because there were so many things I wanted to go to but couldn’t because you couldn’t take a baby with you! So, I took all my leadership training and applied it to motherhood. I wanted to empower myself and other moms, to enable us to see the silver lining, especially in those moments where you’re really hitting the wall. I’ve been doing that for a couple of months now, and it’s really awesome. I know that this is going to turn into something bigger, and I’ll dedicate at least the next few years to it.
What does this work bring to your life?
I have an outlet to give back, and when I do that, it makes me feel fulfilled and happy. Right now, because I’m doing this on my maternity leave, I’m putting my passion first and not worrying about how much money I have to make, which takes a lot of pressure off of me. It gets me so excited seeing mothers being able to connect with each other and having these raw, real conversations.
Why is this work important?
It inspires me seeing the strength and courage that mothers have. The transformation that motherhood brings is the most amazing opportunity for leadership to arise in this world, because we are the biggest influencers on children of the planet and we can be the difference for the entire future of this planet by how we raise them. That’s a big job with a big responsibility. That’s a huge context to hold for mothers, and that’s the context I hold for every mother on this planet now that I’m a mother. Some people could choose to see that as pressure, but I choose to empower the people that I share it with that they see it as an honour, that they are completely capable and worthy to rise up to.
Has parenthood changed how you view your work?
Yes absolutely. I’ve gone from wanting to empower businesses to have a social mission to wanting to empower businesses to support women in the workforce. For women and families to thrive. Businesses aren’t fitting women’s lives when they go back after having children, though there are all these rad women who make it work, it is not convenient or easy for them.
I would like to now work with companies to transform how they’re set up on the cultural and organizational side to support working mothers. For example Patagonia has built in daycare at the head office that you don’t need to pay for, and if you go on a business trip they’ll give you a nanny or a helper to come with you. I would like that to be the norm, and support companies to get there. That would be a huge win for organizations because they get to retain top talent, it will be an attracting factor for bad-ass women, and peace of mind for them that they don’t have to choose work over their child and compromise in any way.
Also, since becoming a mother I’ve realized that the world of business has so many male qualities in it terms of competition and being direct, and those very much used to be a big part of my personality. Becoming a mother has allowed me to balance myself out in my feminine qualities, and rather than seeing what’s feminine as weak or a push-over, I’m choosing to see those nurturing, giving and caring qualities that make a difference, are what is lacking in the workplace and really help take businesses to the next level.
Those female qualities will truly make a difference in what the world is going through in terms of global warming. Now is the time for businesses and industries and politicians to look at how they treat the world, because our world is now past the point of no return, so I see the difference of mothers as being transformational in this.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other parents about working/living with purpose?
Every action you take can be an opportunity to live your purpose, and your purpose can be many different things. It could change over time and look many different ways. I know right now I’m working with mothers, maybe in another five years I’ll be working with children and that will be my purpose. My purpose has many different ways of manifesting itself. My purpose doesn’t always have to be that grand or that big, it can be anything. Usually what fulfills people is making a difference for others. You can either be on autopilot and let life run you over, or you can be the designer of your own life by stopping and choosing in this moment to make sure every word that comes out of your mouth is kind and filled with purpose.
What do you think you have in common with other moms?
I really didn’t get it before I had my baby, because I thought as a leadership coach, “I’ve got this.” Well, I have got this, but there have been many moments where I didn’t and I was a mess and in tears. I had to get off my high horse, and understood the common thread is that we’re all human no matter what our upbringing, training or values. Motherhood gives you that commonality and understanding. You see that other lady walking down the street with her stroller and you give the nod, like “Yeah, you got out of the house, you look good, you did your hair and you even put mascara on, bonus.” There’s a mutual respect and bond that makes me feel connect to any mother.
What other moms do you admire?
Moms who run businesses and have designed the life they wanted to have that balance. I admire those who do something that makes a difference, that they’re passionate about, they’re able to create it in a way that they can create income and still be with their children. We want people with good intentions and good hearts to be rich, because they’re the ones that are going to have the money to save the world!